The Scottish Government will legislate to close a "legal loophole" that some GPs fear could lead to commercialisation of doctors' services "by the back door".
The announcement was made by Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon at the British Medical Association's annual conference in Edinburgh on Tuesday (8 July 2008).
Ms Sturgeon (pictured) told delegates: "I am firmly opposed to the commercialisation of healthcare and, to this end, the Scottish Government will legislate to make sure there is no privatisation of GP services by the back door."
She said the NHS faces a "battle of ideas" between a future based on one of mutuality rooted in the public service ethos versus one driven by market forces.
The publication of Lord Darzi's report on the future of healthcare in England had highlighted the different approaches being pursued by the two countries, Ms Sturgeon said, pledging that NHSScotland "will continue to stay true to its founding principles".
"I think there is a battle of ideas going on about the future direction of healthcare," she said. "A battle between the values of the market, of internal competition and contestability and the values of public service, of cooperation and collaboration.
"We have set out our stall with absolute clarity. NHSScotland is, and always will be, a service that is owned by the people of this country."
Ms Sturgeon also said that next month the Scottish Government will launch its consultation on the possible contents of a new Patients' Rights Bill, seeking views on issues ranging from equity of access and dignity in healthcare, to the right to a legally binding individual waiting time guarantee appropriate to clinical need.
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"Dear Name and address withheld,
While I have no comment to make about most of your statement may I point out that the myth of Scotland being subsidised by the English is just that – a myth. Scotland is a net contributor to the UK economy. It can claim this with or without the 'whose oil it is anyway argument', and in no matter which way it is calculated, one of only two regions of the UK that can make that claim. This is according to HM Treasury figures rather than some envious and resentful MPs and journalists who are either too lazy to find out the facts or ignore them as it doesn't suit their cause. Scotland has delegated powers to spend its 'less than it generates allocation from the UK government' in whichever way it chooses and it has chosen to look after its people in a different way to that of England. Yours, an Englishman living in Scotland and proud to be part of NHSScotland" – Jack, Scotland
"Isn't it ironic that a Scot in Downing Street is directing a member of the House of Lords (that he and his party wanted at one stage to totally demolish) to undo the NHS in England (which was the inspiration of a Welshman in whose principality his guiding principles still seem to abound) whilst the government in Scotland (where no doubt the incumbent of Downing Street will retire to) is closing the door to privatisation so that in his retirement he will be able to enjoy the fruits of his Labour (party) by having everything that he needs free at the point of delivery (and all the other items – free prescriptions, free care in his dotage) which is being denied to us England. It is no wonder that when he does smile it looks more like the self-satisfied smirk of a hypocrite. Oh how I wish my forebears had stayed in Scotland and I might then be able to be subsidised by the rest of the English too!" – Name and address withheld